Persecution of Cathars, Albigenses and Waldenses Christian Heresy Persecution of Cathars, Albigenses and Waldenses


Four Church Councils in 1119, 1139, 1148 and 1163 declared the Cathars to be heretics. The Council of Toulouse in 1119 and then the Lateran Council of 1139 urged the secular powers to proceed violently against heresy—they did not. Even so, Cathars were burned or imprisoned in many places, but, William IX of Aquitaine and many of the nobles of the Midi continued to protect them. They valued their industry and integrity in a corrupt world. The French bishops at the Council of Tours (1163) discussed the presence of Cathars in Cologne, Bonn and Liege. They called them Manichæans, a taunt, for they knew they were not, and the Cathars called themselves the Good Christians. From 1180 to 1230, the Catholic Church enacted legislation against heresy, and set up a permanent tribunal, staffed by Dominican friars. It was the Inquisition. 

The Church had great faith in punishment for the body as a cure for rebellion in the spirit. 

W Woods, A History of the Devil 

© Dr M D Magee Contents Updated:Thursday, 12 December 2002 

Persecution of the Cathars The Albigensian Crusade The Waldenses Persecution of the Waldenses

Persecution of the Cathars

Catholic apologists like Jean-Claude Dupuis writing in The Angelus, cannot avoid being self-contradictory on the question of Catharism. They say it advocated a dual level of morality. It was strict for the Perfects but lax for the Believers, and everyone was guaranteed salvation. Dupuis concludes: 

Now one understands what made their doctrine so successful. 

A sentence later he says: 

The vast majority of the people remained faithful to Catholicism. 

And he adds Cathars were not very numerous, never more than 5 percent to 10 percent of the population of Languedoc, but because they were tradesmen in the cities, they were wealthy and powerful, and practiced the sin of usury, as it was then, even though it is quite all right now. So they were successful but not successful, rich but had a vow of poverty, and yet were powerful enough for this Christian to say they 

Persecution of Cathars, Albigenses and Waldenses 

were a “powerful and arrogant sect”. 

Anyway, this “not very numerous” sect, Dupuis says, oppressed the peasants and persecuted the Catholic priests! They even had the temerity to assassinate a Grand Inquisitor, S Peter of Verona, Martyr. 

It was not so much the differences in doctrine that bothered the Church as long as the heretical beliefs were held only by a minority. The Cathari were indeed too successful! A swathe of Southern Europe bordering the Mediterranean from Spain to Italy was strongly Cathar, and extensions ran up the Rhone valley and into the Alps and southern Germany, and even Flanders and England. There were more Cathars in the east in Bulgaria and Bosnia. 

At the heart of the Albigensian culture was industry. The saying, “Work is Prayer”, had its origin among them, and this too is Essene. Catharism grew partly because the Catholic Church opposed the development of capitalism. The Church indeed disagreed with money-lending and usury to which the Cathars were more open. Besides that, the people were fed up with paying excessively to maintain the corruption of the Catholic Church. The truth is that Catholic prelates were comfortable and indolent. Priests were often ignorant of all practical matters, having been brought up entirely in devotional studies. Many were corrupt and all lived in relative or even absolute luxury. They kept mistresses even though they had accepted celibacy in imitation of the Cathar Parfaits

The Cathar Perfects were the complete opposite. They were literally perfect Christians modelled on Christ and the Essene lifestyle of his time, and followed by the apostles. The Cathari refused to take oaths under the pretext that the Perfect God should not be introduced into material matters, and they condemned all forms of wealth. In this they were like the Essenes and the first Christians, and quite unlike the Church. They were attentive to the ordinary people who literally adored them as Christs. The same feeling of protest had been operating within the Church too, giving rise to the new strict monastic orders—the Cistercians, the Dominicans and the Franciscans—but they were not only sidelined but coralled into implementing the Church’s evil policy of annihilation of its enemies, while the cardinals and bishops remained ensconced in luxury. 

As early as the eleventh century, the Empress of Byzantium, Theodora, had put to death a multitude of Paulicians, and, in 1118, the Emperor Alexius Comnenus treated the Bogomili with equal severity. Perhaps these persecutions were the cause of their pouring into Western Europe. 

In 1022, King Robert II, the Pious (996-1031), of France, “because he feared for the safety of the kingdom and the salvation of souls” had thirteen distinguished citizens, ecclesiastic and lay, burnt alive at Orléans, thus earning his soubriquet. Ten of these were canons of the church of the Holy Cross and another had been confessor to Queen Constance. They were described, in Medieval fashion, as Manichæans, meaning they were dualists, died steadfast in their beliefs despite torture, and sound like a high ranking coven of witches. About 1025, heretics who acknowledged that they were disciples of the Italian Gundulf, appeared at Liège and Arras. Promising to recant, they were left unmolested. A few years later (1045) the Bishop of Chalons, Roger, observed that the sect was spreading in his diocese, and asked of Wazo, 

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Bishop of Liège, advice as to the use of force. Wazo advised it was contrary to the spirit of the Church and the words of its Founder. At Goslar, in the Christmas season of 1051, and in 1052, several heretics were hanged because Holy Roman Emperor Henry III (1039-1056) wanted to prevent the further spread of “the heretical leprosy”. 

In 1076 or 1077, a Catharist was condemned to the stake by the Bishop of Cambrai. Other Catharists were given their choice, by the magistrates of Milan, of converting to Catholicism or being burnt at the stake. Most chose the latter. Elsewhere similar acts were due to popular outbursts. In 1114, the Bishop of Soissons kept a variety of heretics imprisoned, but while he sought the advice of bishops assembled for a synod at Beauvais, a Christian mob stormed the prison, took the accused out of town, and burned them. 

In 1144, a Christian mob attacked some Catharists imprisoned in Liège, whom the bishop hoped to convert. The bishop succeeded with the greatest trouble in rescuing some of them from death by fire. A similar thing happened at Cologne. While the archbishop and the priests sought to lead the heretics back into the Church, the mob violently took the prisoners from the custody of the clergy and burned them at the stake. Peter of Bruys, a Cathar leader, was treated similarly by the fury of a mob. 

At least one bishop sought the assistance of the secular arm for the punishment of heretics, though he did not call for the death penalty, but most learned figures in the Church who are still on record opposed the murder of heretics. Peter Canter, the most learned man of his time says: 

Whether they be convicted of error, or freely confess their guilt, Catharists are not to be put to death, at least not when they refrain from armed assaults upon the Church. For although the Apostle said, A man that is a heretic after the third admonition, avoid, he certainly did not say, Kill him. Throw them into prison, if you will, but do not put them to death. 

So far was S Bernard of Clairvaux from agreeing with the methods of the people of Cologne, that he laid down the axiom: 

By persuasion, not by violence, are men to be won to the Faith. 

Though some ecclesiastical lawyers conceded to the Church the right to pronounce sentence of death on heretics, they did not get their way. Excommunication, proscription, imprisonment, were inflicted, being intended rather as forms of atonement than of real punishment, but never the capital sentence. For apologists the ecclesiastical law and the ecclesiastical authorities are absolved from responsibility. The executions of heretics at this time was the arbitrary action of civil rulers, and the fanatic rage of the people. Revisionists say the blame for these acts does not lie with the Church, because bishops and other clergy were trying to restrain kings, stop the mobs, and keep the heretics away from the mobs in prison. That is true from some of the records that survive, but the real question is what had the clergy been teaching the mob. 

In the second half of the twelfth century, Catharism spread in alarming fashion for the Church authorities who thought it not only menaced the Church’s existence, but 

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threatened the basis of Christian society. Christian society has as its God the God of Israel, Yehouah. George Ryley Scott, in A History of Torture (1941), points out that this God, according to the Jewish scriptures, surpassed belief for sheer cruelty, terrorism and frightfulness. He massacred in their thousands those who stood in His way or displeased Him. He smote even His Chosen People and approved of stoning to death and burning alive for merely petty offences. Refusing to be utterly idle on the sabbath day meant death. This was an inhuman God. 

Now, whatever the human God who was crucified said about love, for centuries the leaders of Christian countries took it that they should ignore the words and example of the human God and follow the example of the inhuman God in how enemies or heretics should be treated. Indeed, when crimes were judged to have been against God and His commands, they took it that the Jewish scriptures prescribed how the criminals should be punished. Apostasy, heresy and blasphemy were crimes that angered God particularly and had to be punished in the ways God expected. In particular, it meant vengeance. Nothing that Christ is said to have taught minimised this attitude, even though some clergy tried to point out the contradiction. They had to take care of course, and even Loyola found himself accused. 

From the old Roman law, a belief arose, at least throughout Germany, France, and Spain, that heresy was fought by burning the heretics. In 1183, Duke Philip of Flanders, aided by William of the White Hand, Archbishop of Reims, was particularly severe towards heretics. They burnt alive nobles and commoners, clerics, knights, peasants, spinsters, widows and married women, confiscated their property and divided it between themselves. Between 1183 and 1206, Bishop Hugo of Auxerre acted similarly towards the neo-Manichæans. Some he despoiled, others he either exiled or sent to the stake. King Philip Augustus of France had eight Cathari burnt at Troyes in 1200 one at Nevers in 1201, several at Braisne-sur-Vesle in 1204, and many at Paris—priests, clerics, laymen, and women Catharists. Raymond V of Toulouse (1148-94) passed a law which punished Cathari and their favourers with death. In 1211, Simon de Montfort’s men-at-arms boasted they had burned alive many, and would continue to do so, believing they were carrying out this law. 

In 1197, Peter II the Catholic (1196-1213), King of Aragon and Count of Barcelona, issued an edict in obedience to which the Waldensians and all other schismatics were expelled from the land, any of them found in his kingdom or his county after Palm Sunday of the next year was to suffer death by fire, and confiscation of goods. 

Ecclesiastical legislation was still not so severe. Alexander III at the Lateran Council of 1179 asked secular rulers to silence disturbers of public order if necessary by force, imprisonment of the guilty and appropriation of their possessions. In 1148, an agreement between pope Lucius III and Frederick Barbarossa allowed heretics of every community to be sought out, brought before the episcopal court, excommunicated, and given up to the civil power to he suitably punished. The suitable punishment meant the proscriptive ban—exile, expropriation, destruction of the culprits’ dwelling, debarment from public office and infamy—not death. The pope excommunicated the heretics, and the emperor put them under the civil ban, and confiscated their goods. 

In the early Middle Ages, investigation of heresy was a duty of the bishops. Alarmed especially by the spread of the Albigenses, the popes issued increasingly stringent 

Persecution of Cathars, Albigenses and Waldenses 

instructions as to the methods for dealing with heretics. But they translated the New Testament into Provençal, and, soon after, those reading it for the first time saw, in the Scarlet Woman of Revelation, the Roman Church. In 1209, Innocent III lost his cool, and began preaching a crusade against the Albigenses. 

The story of that crusade is a chapter in history that the Roman Catholic historians have done their best to obliterate. 

The last discourse of S Dominic to the Albigenses betrays a man who, as Wells puts it, “has lost his faith in truth because his truth has not prevailed”: 

For many years I have exhorted you in vain, with gentleness, preaching, praying and weeping. But according to the proverbs of my country, “Where blessing can accomplish nothing, blows may avail”, we shall arouse against you princes and prelates, who, alas! will arm nations and kingdoms against this land… and thus blows will avail where blessings and gentleness have been powerless. 

Like the crusades against the Moslems the pope offered indulgences to all its participants. He also threatened those who would not co-operate with excommunication and interdict. These were confirmed at the Lateran Council of 71 archbishops, 400 bishops, 800 abbots, and 2000 other clerymen held in 1215: 

If a temporal ruler… should neglect to cleanse his territory of this heretical foulness, let him be excommunicated by the… bishops of the province. If he refuses to make satisfaction within a year, let the matter be made known to the supreme pontiff, that he may declare the ruler’s vassals absolved from their allegiance and may offer the territory to be ruled by Catholics, who on the extermination of the heretics may possess it without hindrance and preserve it in the purity of faith… Catholics who have girded themselves with the cross for the extermination of the heretics, shall enjoy the indulgences and privileges granted to those who go in defense of the Holy Land. 

This brought about twenty thousand eager Christians, knights and peasants, from all over Europe to save their souls and get rich by legalised and sanctified murder and robbery. For the first time a pope was sanctioning a holy war against other Christians. The crusade lasted for thirty years and an estimated one million died. It was a war of genocide in fact. Those whose lives were spared, had their eyes torn out. 

Cathars were labelled as heretics and were subject to every possible abomination. Some undertook to be reconciled and converted like the Earl of Toulouse, but were whipped and humilated. In 1211, the castle of Caberet fell and the defenders were burnt at the stake or murdered in other cruel ways. The lady of the castle was buried by stones in a pit and left to die by pressing and suffocation. When Marmaude surrendered, 5000 men women and children were massacred. Puritanical sects like the Apostolicals, who had returned to Essene habits such as using white linen and going bareheaded like the apostles were also tortured into extinction. The founder of the sect, Gerhardt Sagarellus of Parma, was burnt alive in 1300. His successor, Dulcino of Novara, and his wife were pierced with hooks and literally pulled to pieces in 1307, the separate pieces then being burnt. 

H G Wells, Crux Ansata 

Persecution of Cathars, Albigenses and Waldenses 

During the first three decades of the thirteenth century, the Inquisition, as the institution, did not exist. But eventually Christian Europe was so endangered by heresy, and penal legislation concerning Catharism had gone so far, that the Inquisition seemed to be a political necessity. 

Heresy was a notional crime. A crime prescribed by the Christian authorities. How are Christians to be relieved from any responsibility for the crime appearing in secular legal texts. It could not be a crime unless the Christians had insisted that it was. The Church claims that, in Italy, up to 1224, there was no imperial law ordering, or supposing as legal, the burning of heretics. 

The Church also now took heresy and blasphemy to be treason against God, to be treated in the way the secular authorities dealt with traitors. Besides that, they took their cues from the later Roman emperors like Justinian the Great who used legal methods to rob their enemies, and even some friends if they were especially rich. So, those guilty of heresy had their property confiscated by the inquisitors and they either kept it or handed it to the Church. It was a strong incentive to falsely accuse people of a crime it was impossible to defend against. The Church was perpetually short of funds, especially as the tastes of the bishops and cardinals became those of secular princes—for elaborate palaces, estates, jewels and fancy garments and mistresses. These things the revisionists cannot deny. 

The rescript for Lombardy of 1224 is the first law in which death by fire is contemplated. Lawyers had told the Holy Roman emperor about the Roman Law that punished high treason with death, and Manichæism with the stake. The burning of heretics had become a punishment prescribed in various secular laws by about 1235. The burning of heretics in Germany was then no longer rare. The Christians escape any responsibility for the burning of heretics by saying it was standard practice. In short, the Church did not start it, but merely continued a practice already well established! From 1231, there could no longer be any ecclesiastical excuses. Imperial rescripts of 1220 and 1224 were adopted into ecclesiastical criminal law in 1231, and were soon applied at Rome. The Inquisition of the Middle Ages had been born. 

The clergy took control of the rabble and formed it into a system of persecution that became the inquisition. In a sense, the church retained a peculiar interpretation of “justice” amidst its superstition and ignorance, and sought to rein in the mobs and put them under its authority. Evidence was needed, and procedures had to be followed, and, since the crime was a form of treachery, torture was permitted. The end justified the means, but it would all be done properly! 

The Albigensian Crusade

The Albigensians take their name from Albiga (Albi), a town in one of those southern provinces of France which were to that country what southern California is to the United States. Albi has a suburb on the right bank of the river Tarn called La Madeleine. The cathedral of Sainte Cecile, a fine fortress-church in the Gothic style, begun in 1277, finished in 1512, rises high above the rest of the town. Albi was, in the Gallo-Roman period, capital of the Albigenses, and later of the viscounty of Albigeois, which was a fief of the Counts of Toulouse. After the Albigensian crusade, the counts lost their estates, which passed to Simon de Montfort and then to the crown of 

Persecution of Cathars, Albigenses and Waldenses 

France. In 1264, the temporal power in the city was granted to the bishops. The archbishopric dates from 1678. 

In these southern provinces, the brilliant example of the Spanish Moors was known best, and during the eleventh century the heresy of the Bogomiles was imported into them by missionaries from Bulgaria or Bosnia or even from Spain. The orthodox Catholics of France called them “bougres”, for Bulgars, implied that their sexually chaste leaders indulged in anal sex, and so the name of innocent people became one of the worst swear words used. They were reproached with having a pope in Bulgaria. 

The Cathari said that the Church was corrupt from the time of Constantine’s donation to pope Sylvester. People knew this only too well, and, in the Albigeois district, most of the population went over to the new Cathar religion. William IX, Duke of Aquitaine, offered the Cathars protection and the other nobility of the south of France followed suit. Chivalry and the poetry of the troubadours were assiduously cultivated by the Cathar nobles. Even in the cities, proud of their wealth, enriched through their trade with the orient or by their industry especially in new skills like papermaking, citizens boasted a degree of education and enlightenment unknown elsewhere. They were taught to read, and that would not do! 

In no other land did the Jew, despised in Christian Europe, enjoy such freedom. They were accepted in public office, and were accepted as successful in it. The Hebrew School of Narbonne was renowned, and Jewish culture flourished here as it had under the Caliphate of Cordoba. 

The movement spread in comparative safety. The first Cathars called heretics were noted in Limousin about 1012. Several were discovered and put to death at Toulouse in 1022, and Bogomils were burnt in Cologne in 1142. Even before the Cathar meeting at Saint Félix de Caraman, four Church Councils in 1119, 1139, 1148 and 1163 had declared the Cathars to be heretics who should be punished. The Church hierarchy had become very touchy in the twelfth century. The synod of Charroux (in Vienne) in 1028, and that of Toulouse in 1056, also condemned the growing sect. The Council of Toulouse in 1119 and then the Lateran Council of 1139 urged the secular powers to proceed violently against heresy—they would not, to any extent. Even so, Cathars were burned or imprisoned in many places, but, William IX of Aquitaine continued to protect them, and soon so did many of the princes and nobles of the Midi. They were proud of their industry and integrity in a corrupt world. The French bishops at the Council of Tours (1163) discussed the presence of Cathars in Cologne, Bonn and Liege. They called them Manichaeans[†] 

(MANICHAEANS. Professor Moghdam tells us that, according to the Bayan al-Adyan, “the Manicheans say that Jesus called men to Zoroaster”, “Manichaean” here plainly not meaning a Manichaean literally, but those called Manichaeans by the Christians. In Europe, the Albigenses and Bogomils were habitually called Manicheans by the Christians. Moghdam allows that the Manichaeans had an influence in Europe in the early days of Christianity, including on prominent saints like Augustine, who was one, but he thinks the heretics were more likely to have been followers of Mithras. The name Bogomil is composed of “bog”, “baga”, a title first of Varuna, but in Persia of Mithras, meaning simply God, and “mil”, another title of Mithras, “the Friend”. Bogomil is usually rendered as a “friend of God”.) effectively a taunt, for they knew they were not and the Cathars thought of themselves as 

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the Good Christians, but their decisions against the heretics again had little effect. Then the preachers, Raoul Ardent, in 1101, and Robert of Arbrissel, in 1114, were sent to combat the heresy. 

People liked the bons hommes, whose asceticism impressed them, and the anti-sacerdotal preaching of Peter of Bruys and Henry of Lausanne in Perigord, Languedoc and Provence promoted Catharism in those regions. In 1147, pope Eugenius III sent the legate Alheric of Ostia, and S Bernard of Clairvaux, the most famous preacher of the time, to the region. The churches were deserted and S Bernard was unable to make any impression. The heresy spread over France, Belgium, western Germany, Spain and northern Italy. The Papacy was alarmed! These Cathari numbered at least hundreds of thousands in France alone. Pope after pope urged the secular powers to persecute them. 

At Lombers in 1165 AD, Catholic priests engaged in discussion with Catharist doctors. A few years later in 1167 AD, a Catharist synod, in which heretics from Languedoc, Bulgaria and Italy took part, was held undisturbed at Saint Félix de Caraman, near Toulouse. The apparent head of the Cathars of the world consecrated four or five new bishops, and gave the religion a splendid public triumph. Each bishop had a Filius Major and a Filius Minor as presbyters, and a deacon. The simple honesty of the Bonhommes impressed the people and they remained happy not to be obliged by the authority of Rome other than in name. 

Alexander III, in the Third Lateran Council of 1179, repeated the cry for the use of force and held out tempting baits to those who murdered heretics. To princes he gave the right to imprison offenders and, appealing to their greed, to confiscate their property. To all who would “take up arms” against them, he promised two years’ remission of penance and even greater privileges. Henry, cardinal-bishop of Albano, in 1180-1181, attempted an armed expedition against the stronghold of heretics at Lavaur and against Raymond Roger, viscount of Beziers, their acknowledged protector, taking Lavaur and forcing the submission of Raymond Roger. 

Pope Lucius II in 1184 made a new departure. He laid down the penalties of heresy as exile, confiscation, and infamy or loss of civil rights. He threatened unwilling secular rulers with excommunication and interdict, and enacted that, whereas under current law a bishop was to try a heretic in open court when a man was charged, the bishop must now actively seek heretics. They had to institute a search, in Latin, an “inquisitio”. Still, few secular rulers did more than shrug their shoulders. Heresy did not concern them. 

This was the situation when, in 1198, Innocent III donned the Papal tiara. Profoundly religious popes such as Gregory I, Gregory VII, and Innocent III did Western civilization the most deadly injury. Innocent III came with an arsenal of anathemas. When a prince grinned at a hurled anathema, Innocent set armies in motion and drenched the man’s kingdom with blood as Gregory VII had done. The bloody genocide which followed has no parallel in history. It was done in the name of the Christian God. 

Innocent III resolved to suppress the Albigenses, and in 1198 and 1199 sent into the affected regions two Cistercian monks, Regnier and Guy, and in 1203 two monks of Fontfroide, Peter of Castelnau and Raoul, with whom, in 1204, he even associated the 

Persecution of Cathars, Albigenses and Waldenses 

Cistercian abbot, Arnaud. For nine years, Innocent III had monks preaching in the heretical provinces of Languedoc urging the bishops and princes to persecute, but they were quite ineffective. Even the local bishops rejected the extraordinary authority the pope had conferred upon these monks, and, in 1204, he suspended the authority of the bishops. His chief legate, Pierre de Castelnau, received instructions in 1207 to arrange a warlike campaign of the princes, and he excommunicated Raymond VI, count of Toulouse, as an abetter of heresy. 

In the bad atmosphere created, the legate Peter of Castelnau was murdered (1209). Innocent angrily proclaimed that Raymond, Count of Toulouse, was responsible. The accusation was unlikely, and, in later life, Innocent admitted there was no evidence. Perhaps it was a Catholic provocation, because it became the excuse for the pope to order the Cistercians to preach the crusade against the Albigenses. The “great” pope rang out a call to arms, and sorely threatened with excommunications, interdicts and anathemas the Christian princes and knights who did not obey it. There was no need of threats. In the thirteenth century, war meant unlimited loot, and the Albigensian towns were amongst the most prosperous in Europe. The nobility of northern France saw the chance to plunder the wealthy region of the south and supported the crusade. The Church set France into civil war for twenty years. 

The crusade ensured that Albigensian lands were handed over to French Catholic barons. A rough parallel is the president of the United States allowing Mafia gangsters—Christian knights in those days had no higher ethic—to take every pimp and drug baron to invade and sack Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo. A contemporary poet said that twenty thousand knights and two hundred thousand footmen converged upon the Albigensians. They were led by the Arnold, the Cistercian Abbot of Citeaux—as bloody a priest as Torquemada—and a seedy Anglo-French adventurer, Simon de Montfort, whose purse was empty, according to Joseph McCabe. The King of France was not in it—at first, only because his terms to the pope were exorbitant. 

The robber barons that constituted the crusade massed for the campaign on 24 June 1209, at the feast of S John the Baptist, patron saint of Lyons. Was this significant in terms of Cathar belief? Caesarius of Heisterbach records in Dialogus Miraculorum that, when, at the first large town, Béziers, soldiers asked the Papal legate in charge of the crusade how they could distinguish between heretics and orthodox, the Abbot of Citeaux famously answered: 

Show mercy neither to order, nor to age, nor to sex… Cathar or Catholic, kill them all… God will know his own (…caedite eos… novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius). 

Arnold himself reported to the pope they had indeed spared neither rank, age nor sex and had massacred 20,000 people. Some have put the figure at 40,000. 6000 were said to have sheltered in the Catholic Church of S Madeleine, and were probably therefore mainly Catholics. It was burned and all were murdered. As each town was taken, the inhabitants were put to the sword without distinction of age or sex. Clergymen in the army distinguished themselves by their ferocity. Simon de Montfort diligently incinerated the heretics, 140 at Minerve, 300 at Lavour, 60 at Le Cassés. A troubadour wrote of Simon de Montfort. He ought to “wear a crown and be resplendent in the heavens”, if, “by abolishing honour, by making pride victorious, by 

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stimulating evil and extinguishing good, if by killing women and slaughtering infants, one can in this world achieve salvation in Christ”. 

Raymond VI offered a peace in 1211, so Innocent stopped the crusade after two years of almost unparalleled butchery, but then yielded to the greed of de Monfort and the crusaders and the fanaticism of the monks and reopened it, prolonging the massacres for another 18 years. The Albigensians were still so strong after two years of the most brutal carnage that, when the pope renewed the crusade in 1214, a fresh hundred thousand “pilgrims” had to be summoned. It proves the scale of the heresy. 

Today Christian writers dispute these things, but they are recorded in the bragging words of the Catholics of the time. Innocent boasted that they took five hundred towns and castles from the heretics, and they butchered every man, woman and child in each town when they took it. Noble ladies with their daughters were thrown down wells, and large stones flung upon them. Cathar knights were hanged in batches of eighty. How could Catholic knights, footsoldiers and monks commit such atrocities, so fearful, as they were, of eternal retribution in the fires of hell? Because Innocent III had granted them absolution in advance as an incentive to do their worst. And they did! 

The accounts of the cruelties and abominations of this crusade are far more terrible to read than any account of Christian martyrdom by the Pagans, and they have the added horror of being indisputably true. 

H G Wells, Crux Ansata 

The Cathars had defied the Church’s authority, rejected its teaching, and in general thought and acted for themselves. For these sins there was no mercy. The custodians of Christianity unhesitatingly burnt their fellow men persuaded that being burnt to death in a half hour of torment was better than the eternal torment of hell fire. This monstrous belief is still alive among Christians. 

Raymond was succeeded by his son, Raymond VII, whose mother was a Plantagenet. The war reached an impasse when Avignon and Marseolles gave support to Raymond, but the pope sought help from the French king, Louis VIII, and Raymond was forced to surrender. This sordid war, which threw the whole of the nobility of the north of France against that of the south, and destroyed the brilliant Provençal civilization, ended in the Treaty of Paris, signed on 12 April, 1229, by which the king of France dispossessed the house of Toulouse of the greater part of its fiefs, and that of Beziers of the whole of its fiefs. Raymond was told to spy on his own subjects. The independence of the southern nobility of France was destroyed. 

Yet, Albigensianism was not extinguished, in spite of the wholesale massacres during the war. Parfaits faidits (proscribed) were hiding in the forests, obliged to move every few weeks from ditch to charcoal burner’s hut, to cellar, to hayrick. Raymond VII of Toulouse and the Count of Foix gave asylum to them, and the people were averse from handing over the bons hommes. It was the Inquisition that destroyed the heresy. Those accused were offered “penance” which meant a lifetime in leg irons in a rat-infested, damp and dank dungeon. Attractive women were kept as sex slaves by the gaolers. Hundreds were imprisoned each year as the inquisitors went from village to village. Those who refused penance were burnt. The Catholic authorities not only destroyed people, they destroyed all the Cathar documents they could find, even 


Persecution of Cathars, Albigenses and Waldenses 

forcing the dukes to burn their own records. That is why the Cathars still seem so mysterious to us. We know them mainly from the calumnies of their Catholic destroyers. 

The pope’s behaviour during these horrible years was revolting and is known in full from his letters. Raymond of Toulouse, to spare his people, submitted before the crusade began, although the pope expressly told his legates to “deceive him and pass to the extirpation of the other heretics”. His brutal treatment of Raymond, without any trial, earned the censure even of the king of France. The pope was said to have been sickened by the slaughter and the vile passions of his servants, but more important to him was that he made vast material profit for the Papacy out of the monumental crime. 

Even the grisly and comprehensive massacres had not crushed the spirit of the heretics and the Dominican monk, “Robert le Bougre”, Robert the Bugger, as he was commonly called, was sent with ghastly powers. In 1239, he burned a hundred and twenty-three “Bulgars” in one town. The nobles rebelled in 1240, and the people often rioted from their enforced impoverishment from confiscation and unrelenting persecution. Among the Inquisition’s accusations against the Cathars was that they had the remains of Christ, that they worshipped a head, that they worshipped John the Baptist, according to Anthony Harris in the supposedly historical parts of a book of ridiculous speculation. When Montsegur was about to succumb, it is said that four Parfaits were allowed to take something out of the citadel. In 1244, the royal officers assisting the Inquisition seized the heretical citadel of Montségur, and 200 Cathari were burned in one day. Moreover, the church decreed severe chastisement against all laymen suspected of sympathy with the heretics. The repression was unimaginable. 

There were some recrudescences of heresy, such as that produced by the preaching (1298-1309) of the Catharist minister, Pierre Authier. The people, too, made some attempts to throw off the yoke of the Inquisition and the French—a heretic is described as saying: “Clergy and French, they are one and the same thing”—and insurrections broke out under the leadership of Bernard of Foix, Aimery of Narbonne, and Bernard Delicieux at the beginning of the fourteenth century. Vast inquests, found in the registers of the Inquisitors, Bernard of Caux, Jean de St Pierre, Geoffrey d’Ablis and others, were set up by the Inquisition, terrorizing the district. The sect locally was spent and could find no more adepts in a district which, by the foulest means, had arrived at a state of exhausted peace. After 1330, the records of the Inquisition contain few proceedings against Catharists. 

Still, Catharism did not disappear. Hunted down by the Inquisition and abandoned by the nobles, the Albigenses became more and more scattered, hiding in the forests and mountains, and only meeting surreptitiously. The effect was like that of the Irish famine of 1845. Many many people died, but many more escaped to new lands. The Cathars had to move elsewhere to escape, adopting a secret lifestyle. Jean-Claude Dupuis, the Catholic revisionist, admits “it transformed itself into a secret society”. Many went underground meeting only in secret. The survivors remained convinced they were right. The deeds of the Catholic Church proved it was Satanic. The Church created the witch’s coven! 

Innocent III savagely uprooted the heretical belief in a simple way—he aimed to kill 


Persecution of Cathars, Albigenses and Waldenses 

off the believers, first with the Albigensian crusade, then for any remnants left in hiding, he bequethed as deadly and repulsive a gift as his massacre—the foundations of the Inquisition. The crusaders came, and their unfinished work was taken up and executed to the bitter end by the Inquisition. It took another 200 years of the Inquisition operating in Toulouse and Albi for the heresy to be defeated in the Languedoc. It left a ruined and impoverished country, with shattered industry and failing commerce. A people of rare and creative culture had been tortured and murdered into extinction. Harold Bayley concludes that… 

…the scattered civilization of Provence reunited in secrecy, and that in the course of time it reimposed its influence upon Europe. 

The troubadours stood for those opposed to Catholic Christianity. From south west France, they found asylum in all parts of Europe, where they kept alive the story of clerical barbarity. Crushed and scattered, the civilization of Provence continued for subsequent centuries elsewhere, perpetuating the heretical struggle. 

The heretical sects flourished almost solely among the artisan classes. They were associated with the crafts and some of their names reflect crafts like Tixerands (weavers) and Patarenes (rag-pickers). Papermaking was among the main crafts of the Albigensians, and papermaking and printing largely remained in heretical hands. The persecution scattered the sufferers, but they clung to their traditions, conforming outwardly to the religions of the countries in which they took refuge. The spread of papermaking in Europe marks the trail of Albigensian exiles to the rest of the Continent, small bands penetrating to England, where history knew them under the name of Lollards. 

The Waldenses

“Waldenses” was the name given to heretical Christians in the south of France about 1170. Cathari were called “Waldenses” by their contemporaries—modern writers say wrongly, though the contemporaries were naturally there at the time! Waldenses became so celebrated that nearly all the mediæval heretics were classed under their name, just as earlier heresies had all been called Manichæan. The Waldensians—the Waldenses or the Vaudois—endured centuries of persecution for their faith. Those who were concerned in their suppression were eager to accuse them of the worst enormities imaginable. Vaudois is supposedly from Vaudes (Valdès, de Vaulx), French for Waldo, but is also French for witches, and so might be an insulting name, and an old name for “Valley People” might be its source. Every Vaudois possessed a rudimentary education, a remarkable fact for the middle ages, and one that the Church could not abide, and Cathars were known to have night schools where reading was taught in secrecy. 

The most important of the Waldensian literature is a poem in Provençal, La Nobla Leyczon, but it is not entirely original, having been edited. 

Peter Waldo (1140-1218) was a rich merchant of Lyons, France, who, about 1170, supposedly asked a priest how to live like Jesus Christ, and was told what Jesus said to the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:21. Waldo provided for his wife, put his daughters in a convent, and gave the rest of his money to the poor. He memorized 


Persecution of Cathars, Albigenses and Waldenses 

parts of the bible, and began preaching. As he gained followers, he sent them out in pairs preaching. They were called “the Poor in Spirit”, and are also known as Pauperes de Lugduno, the “Poor Ones of Lyons”, so they seem to have been inspired by the Essenes, the Ebionites, the Jewish sect from which Christianity emerged. 

Waldo preceded S Francis (1181-1226) in adopting a life of poverty to be free to preach. The difference was that the Waldenses preached the doctrine of Christ while the Franciscans preached the person of Christ. He founded his beliefs on the bible, especially the gospels, which he thought so self-explanatory, they needed no interpretation. He thought all that was needed was to make the bible available to the people, so he commissioned two priests to translate the bible into Provençal, starting with the gospels. 

In 1179, Pope Alexander III (1159-1181) who had found no evidence of heresy among the Waldensians, forbade them to preach except with the permission of a bishop, because they were not trained priests. The Archbishop of Lyons ordered Waldo to stop preaching. Waldo quoted Peters’ response when the Sanhedrin told the apostles to stop preaching: 

We must obey God rather than men. 

Acts 5:29 

Waldo kept on preaching, and the Archbishop excommunicated him. From 1180 to 1230, the Catholic Church enacted legislation against heresy. It created a permanent tribunal, staffed by Dominican friars, which became known as the Inquisition. In 1184, Pope Lucius III (1181-1185) excommunicated Waldo and all his followers, but in 1180, four years before Waldo and the Waldensians were excommunicated by the pope, the Waldenses were among the first heretics subject to the Inquisition. Thus a wholly pious movement was declared as heresy by the Church. Some were readmitted into the Catholic Church. Durandus de Osca (1210), tried to found an order of Pauperes Catholici, the forerunner of the Dominicans. Many were killed in the crusade against the Albigenses. Those remaining were formally condemned by the Lateran council of 1215. 

The beliefs of the Waldensians were described by the inquisitor Sacconi about 1250. The Waldensians were Christians, but were independent of the Catholic Church. Humble people who believed in “apostolic poverty”, they went barefoot, owning nothing, but sharing all things in common. They threatened the Church because they were truer Christians than the Catholic clerics. The humility and chosen poverty of the Waldensians contrasted with the grandeur of the Church, and its officers. Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) was contemporary with Waldo, but wore fine clothes elaborately decorated with gemstones. Kings and cardinals had to kiss his foot, and famously he said that the pope is “less than God but more than man”. A century later, Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303) wore a tiara covered with jewels, including 48 rubies, 45 emeralds, 72 sapphires, and 66 large pearls. 

The earliest known document of the Waldensians is a record of a conference at Bergamo in 1218 between the Ultramontane and the Lombard branches, the Lombards showing a greater opposition to the Catholic priesthood than their northern brethren. The northern (Ultramontane) Branch of the Vaudois held that—like the Essenes: 


Persecution of Cathars, Albigenses and Waldenses 

1. oaths are forbidden by the gospel, 2. capital punishment is not allowed to the civil power, 3. any layman may consecrate the sacrament of the altar, 4. the Roman Church is not the Church of Christ. The Lombard branch also held that no one in mortal sin could consecrate the sacrament, and that the Roman Church was the scarlet woman of the Apocalypse, “drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus”, whose precepts ought not to be obeyed. This is indeed true in Essenic terms, except that it was the Roman empire or emperor who was the Scarlet Woman originally. The pope was the Antichrist. 

These features show the relation of the Waldenses and the Cathari—their objection to oaths and to capital punishment are closely related to the principles of the Cathari, but no priesthood is mentioned, so they seemed to be lay Cathars, credentes or croyants, not ready for the consolamentum or perhaps capable of it, but happy to proselytize. But perhaps it is simply that no mention was made of the professional class, because later they seemed to have professional ministers like the Cathari. Election took the place of ordination, but the Lombards recognized only two orders, while the northern body had three orders of bishops, priests and deacons, like the Cathari. A new religious society arose unlike both the medieval church and the Protestantism of the sixteenth century. 

They vigorously attacked Papal corruption in their evangelical tours. All believers were entitled to be priests, including women, so long as they were sincere. They could therefore absolve sin and offer sacraments. They disparaged prayers for the dead, indulgences, confession, penance, music, chanting, the use of Latin, adoring saints and the blessed sacrament. Killing of any kind, lying and swearing oaths were deadly sins, and preaching crusades meant damnation. Waldensian ministers were called Majorales or Perfects. They renounced marriage and property and simply preached. All Waldenses, whether lay or Perfects were to proselytize. David Christie-Murray, an ordained priest who became a Quaker, wrote in his book, A History of Heresy: 

Apart from their heterodox opinions, they were blameless in their lives, being humble, industrious toilers with their hands, who dressed simply, were temperate in all their appetites, sober, truthful, slow to anger, eschewing the gathering of wealth, and avoiding taverns, dances and similar worldly pleasures. 

From a letter of about 1530, Waldenses were baptized, and received the holy communion sometimes, at least, from Catholic priests, but maintained a separate discipline and held services based on itinerant preachers. Their ministers were called “barba”, a Provençal word meaning “guide”, elected from among labouring men, who at the age of twenty five might ask the body of ministers to be admitted as candidates. If approved they were taught during the winter months, when work was slack, for a space of three years. Then they served two years as menial assistants at a nunnery for women in a recess of the valleys. They were admitted to office by the imposition of hands of all ministers present. They went out to preach two by two, and the junior was bound absolutely to obey the senior. Clerical celibacy was their rule. The ministers received food and clothing from the contributions of the people, but also worked with their hands. The affairs of the church were managed by a general synod 


Persecution of Cathars, Albigenses and Waldenses 

held every year. The duties of the “barbas” were to visit all within their district once a year, hear their confessions, advise and admonish them. In all services the two ministers sat side by side, and one spoke after the other. On doctrine, they acknowledged the sacraments as having only a symbolical meaning, prayed to the Virgin and saints, and admitted auricular confession, but they denied purgatory and the sacrifice of the mass, and did not observe fasts or festivals. People did good works through natural virtue stimulated by God’s grace. The reply emphasized the wrongfulness of their outward submission to the ordinances of the Catholic church: 

God is a jealous God, and does not permit His elect to put themselves under the yoke of Antichrist. 

This correspondence was with the Swiss and German reformers and a synod was held, in 1532, at Chanforans in the valley of the Angrogne, out of which they united and rejected totally, the Roman communion, accepting the Calvinist doctrine of election. 

Persecution of the Waldenses 

To counter the Waldenses, Innocent III formed the “Poor Catholics” to do what Waldenses were doing under the auspices of the Church. Thus the peasants could be fooled into thinking Catholics were as poor as the Waldenses, and did similar things while the priests continued to live like the feudal princes they were, in luxury. 

In 1211, more than eighty Waldenses were burned for heresy. The Church Council of 1215 was directed against them, and then the Inquisition. This was the beginning of centuries of persecution. So many were imprisoned by the end of the thirteenth century that the Church directed Catholics to collect charity to feed them. The magnitude of their persecution is shown by the fact that in one year, in Italy alone, nine thousand Waldensians were killed and another twelve thousand were put into prison, where most of them died. In 1393, at Grenoble, 150 were burnt on a single occasion. 

In spite of this, somehow the itinerant Waldensian preachers were able to maintain links throughout Europe. The Waldensians went underground and withdrew to other countries, especially Italy, Switzerland, and Austria, particularly the Alpine valleys of the Vaudois, named after them. These valleys were too inaccessible for the inquisitors, and Waldenses from north and south took refuge there. It became the center of their religion. 

In 1487, pope Innocent VIII issued a bull for their extermination. A crusade against them looked like succeeding until a fog descended, confusing the Catholics and allowing them to be defeated. It was a setback and Charles II, the Duke of Piedmont was persuaded to leave them be. Waldenses in Germany joined the Hussites and the Bohemian Brethren, only to suffer more persecution. 

The Waldenses were living in the valleys of Piedmont in the seventeenth century. The Church exercised its authority on the Duke Charles Emmanuel II of Savoy who ordered that the Vaudois region should be reduced. The attorney of the Duke in 1655 ordered all of them to become Roman Catholics or lose their property and lives. The 


Persecution of Cathars, Albigenses and Waldenses 

army used to enforce the order was made up of Frenchmen from Louis XIV’s army and Irishmen who had fled from Cromwell. The people were treated with horrible barbarity. 

Before long, mobs were rampaging over the estates of the Waldenses. After the men had been killed or chased into the mountains, the women were beheaded and their children had their brains dashed out. In the towns of Villaro and Bolbio, those over 15 years old who refused mass were crucified upside down. Younger children were throttled.Nothing now could be seen but the face of horror and despair. Blood stained the floors of houses, dead bodies strewed the streets, groans and cries were heard from all parts. 

The Duke’s soldiers were even worse. They made a point of mutilating any Waldensian that they caught before they killed them. Often they were simply left to die of their wounds, or of starvation, because they were too injured to move to seek nourishment. Mary Reymondet had her flesh stripped from her bones slice by slice in a manner reminiscent of Hypatia, a thousand years before. She died in a frightful state. Giovanni Pelanchion was tied with one leg to a mule and was dragged through the town while pelted with stones. Ann Charboniere was impaled with a stake and left to die. 

Others were suspended from trees or the beams of their own homes by iron hooks stuck through their abdomens. Bartholemew Frasche had holes bored through his heels, through which a rope was passed and he was dragged to a dungeon and left to die. Daniel Rambart had a joint of a finger or toe amputated each day. Some people had packets of gunpowder forced into their mouths and lit. Drowning, suffocation and burning at the stake were all common. Sara Rastignole des Vignes refused to recite Jesus Maria so had a sickle stuck into her vagina. Martha Constantine was raped and killed by having her breasts cut off. 

A servant of Jacopo Michalino was tortured by being stabbed many times in the souls of his feet and in his ears. Then his penis was cut off and the bleeding wound cauterized with a candle, so that he did not bleed to death and would suffer longer. Then his torturers tore off his nails with hot pincers. Still he would not recant his religion, so they tied him to a mule and dragged him through the streets of Bolbio. Finally they killed him by tying a staff to his head with cords and twisting it off his body. 

Children were killed in front of their parents by being decapitated or cut to pieces. Mary Pelanchion was hung naked from a bridge and used as target practice. Cypriana Bastia said he would rather be dead than a Catholic, so he was half-starved with some dogs and then fed to them. Jacopo de Ronc had his nails pulled out by red hot pincers, then was led through the streets being alternately bludgeoned and having a strip of flesh cut from him. 

These murders continued in the Piedmont valleys until they were almost depopulated. Those who were not tortured to death but fled to the mountains died there of starvation or disease. Despite the outrage of Protestant Europe, the army of occupation remained and Vaudois worship was curtailed. Their chief pastor, Leger, 


Persecution of Cathars, Albigenses and Waldenses 

had to flee to Leyden where he wrote his History of the Vaudois Church (1684). The Waldensians survive in patches today having joined the Protestant Reformation. 

Let a Catholic sum up. Lord Acton, one of the few respected Catholic historians and famous for his epithet, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”, wrote a letter to another of the few, Lady Blennerhasset: 

The accomplices of the Old Man of the Mountains [the classic assassins of history] picked off individual victims, but the papacy contrived murder and massacre on the largest and also on the most cruel and inhuman scale. They were not only wholesale assassins, but they also made the principle of assassination a law of the Christian Church and a condition of salvation. 

This murderous oppression continued as late as 1860, according to J McCabe. In the previous 40 years, 300,000 people had been murdered in Spain, Italy and Portugal supposedly as armed rebels, but mainly ordinary people simply claiming what we now regard as human rights. 

Dr Michael David Magee 

Michael D Magee was born in Hunslet, an industrial suburb of Leeds, Yorkshire, in 1941. He attended Cockburn High School in South Leeds. He won a studentship to the Royal Military College of Science, Shrivenham, where he graduated with an honours degree in natural science in 1963. He went on to obtain a PhD degree from the University of Aston in Birmingham in 1967 and a teaching qualification, a PGCE, from Huddersfield before it was a university. 

He carried out research at the Universities of Aston and Bradford, and at the Wool Industries Research Association, taught in a Further Education College in Devon for seven years and for ten years was an advisor to the UK government at the National Economic Development Office in London. 

He has written three books, and, mainly in collaboration with Professor S Walker, a dozen scientific papers on the structure and interactions of small molecules investigated using microwave radiation. Working for the government he has written or edited some forty publications on microeconomic issues. 

He was brought up by Christian parents but was never indoctrinated into one dogma and was able from an early age to make his own judgements about the Christian religion.


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